Tag Archives: dystopian

Books #56, #58-#61 & #62 – Gone Series

tumblr_m9c0bvz9g31r2grbro1_500I’ve been meaning to review the Gone series pretty much since the day I finished it (and, in fact, since I started reading Gone, the first book) but I kept putting it off because I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. I really thoroughly enjoyed this series, and would heartily recommend.

Now, to attempt to review without too many spoilers… Here we go then.

Gone
Hunger
Lies
Plague
Fear
Light – all by Michael Grant

So! This series centres on the little town of Perdido Beach, California. It’s a normal, sleepy, California town, about ten miles away from a nuclear power plant, close to the sea, ideal for surfers. Until one day every adult disappears. Not just every adult. Everyone over the age of fifteen vanishes without a trace. Just poof.

And then we take it from there – we’re immediately plunged into a Lord of the Flies-style situation where the kids of Perdido Beach are suddenly left without adult supervision, and when they investigate further, they’re trapped in a massive dome – twenty miles in diameter, with the nuclear power plant at the dead centre of the dome. Animals are mutating and gaining strange powers – surely snakes aren’t meant to be able to fly? – and kids are just the same. Some kids seem to have developed incredible powers – mutant powers that are just not physically possible, like telekinesis, healing, laser beams from the hands, super speed – we’re talking X-Men style powers. Combined with a sinister sort of presence in the darkness of a mine, things get out of hand very fast – kids form allegiances and a battle goes down in the very first book – all combined with the fact that time is running out – plenty of kids are heading towards their fifteenth birthdays – fast. And nobody knows what’s on the other side of the poof.

That’s just the first book. Throughout the next five books, which take place over the course of about a year, we see the various issues which will face the kids – how do they organise their society, make sure they don’t starve, keep things civilised? Who’s in charge? Who does what job? Who looks after the babies, who helps the sick? And how do they deal with everything the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) can throw at them – from lies to hunger to plague to the crushing fear of darkness? What the hell is hiding in the mine? How does anyone keep order when there are kids running around with incredible powers? And what will they do when – or if? – the dome disappears?

This series was really, really good. I have very few issues with it. The characters were diverse and interesting, and the perspectives skipped around from Perdido Beach to the islands in the sea, to the desert, to Coates Academy, the school up in the mountains, taking with it a cast of characters spanning both sides of good and evil, brave and cowardly, male and female, young and old (well, old for the FAYZ) and kept things interesting and refreshing throughout.

When summarising this book, I distilled it down to the single tagline – Lord of the Flies crossed with X-Men – but that doesn’t really do it justice. The Gone series doesn’t feel like a derivative series. It’s refreshing and interesting, and brings up some really interesting questions. There’s some really great character development over the course of the six books (particularly Diana, Caine and Orc) and it never felt dull or boring. In fact, I would have read all six books in a row except I had to prioritise Garth Nix over anything (he is my favourite author…) and I’m not allowed take Before I Die out of my house, so I had to read it while I was home. All six books were compelling, and very difficult to put down.

My complaints are: that it took a long time to gain a female character who wasn’t instantly described as cute, and that Sam Temple, the primary character, was probably the dullest of the lot – he didn’t really have any of the strong development that others did. I mean, he had some development, but he just wasn’t as compelling as some of the others. Luckily, the Gone series really focused on an ensemble cast, so Sam didn’t drag it down too far. As well as that, Little Pete sometimes felt like a plot device who was just flung in there to make things more difficult. He improved towards the end, but certainly at the beginning, he was little more than the idiot savant, which was frustrating.

My only other disappointment was that Light was, I thought, the weakest of the lot. I would have preferred more exposition at the end, when the … ending happened (this is very hard to do without spoilers…)
I did think Light was the weakest. It felt rushed, which was sad, because I thoroughly enjoyed all 3,000 pages which preceded it, and would have liked to have something which just expanded a little more. But that’s not to say that Light was bad. In fact, if it hadn’t been following such a strong example, I probably would have been very happy with it.

My overall opinion of this series is a very good one – I’d highly recommend it (I’ve been trying to convince Sinéad to read it, so I can discuss it with her, but it’s not working) and I will definitely be looking to pick up some more Michael Grant books. If this is the calibre of his writing, I’d happily read more of it.

Series overall:
Four Stars
****
Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear
Four Stars
****

Light
Three Stars
***

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Books #14, #15, & #17: The Maze Runner Trilogy

Another dystopian trilogy (you would think I’d be sick of them by now, but they are very much in vogue) that I read this year was The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. Again, prompted by a film (and also Sinéad), I hunted them out and got down to reading them.

The Maze Runner/The Scorch Trials/The Death Cure – James Dashner

Somewhat unusually for a dystopian or YA series, The Maze Runner features a male protagonist – waking up one day in a giant maze, together with a collection of other teenage boys, he has to figure out what’s going on in life, and basically save all of humanity. Much like the Divergent trilogy, the first book is based in a small area, then the second and third widen out to larger society, leaving much weight on the shoulders of our poor protagonist.
The first book leaves Thomas, our hero, stuck in a glade in the middle of an unsolveable maze, patrolled by Grievers, giant metal/animal hybrid monsters and watched by flying camera bugs – all with the word WICKED stamped on them. Who built the maze? Who is watching them? Are the bugs really so wicked? What’s going on? And why, the day after Thomas appears, does everything start changing?

I enjoyed the Maze Runner trilogy, although I did think at times that the books ran overlong. Sinéad never managed to make it past the middle of The Scorch Trials, which is the second book. Generally, though, a solid example of dystopia, with strong characters and alright, though not exceptional worldbuilding. I liked, but didn’t love this trilogy – while I have the prequel book – The Kill Order – I haven’t actually gotten around to reading it yet, and I feel no great sense of loss because of it.

Three Stars
***

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Books #10-12: Divergent Trilogy

I have quite the penchant for Dystopian YA – especially since it’s in vogue at the moment. I’ve read the Hunger Games and the Uglies and the Delirium [although I can never spell Delirium] trilogy and as much of the Testing trilogy as I can currently obtain and various other dystopian books, so it was a natural progression that I would check out the Divergent trilogy, especially since its big cinema release pushed it to the fore of my mind.

Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant – Veronica Roth

So the Divergent trilogy is set in a dystopian future Chicago, where society has survived some sort of catastrophic event (I can’t remember what, there’s always something) and society, in order to prevent it happening again, has identified the traits which they think caused the collapse, and formed factions which aim to eliminate that trait by lauding its opposite. The factions are Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor and Dauntless, and well, if you want to know what they focus on, just google the words. The names are self-explanatory.

In any case, at the age of sixteen, teenagers are tested and told what faction they’re best suited to – then in a ceremony they choose their faction for the rest of their life and so on and so forth. Beatrice Prior, however, when tested, is told that she has an aptitude for more than one faction, making her Divergent (see where the title comes in) and making life *very dangerous* for her.

I mean, they don’t tell her why life is very dangerous, they just tell her it’s a massive secret. Because that’s the way to screw someone over.

So over the course of the three books, we see Tris (as she now likes to be known) choose a faction, fall in love, get involved in a revolution, explore outside the city of Chicago, discover shocking truths and do many things.

Divergent is one of the better dystopian series, I’ve found. The worldbuilding in the first book is weak enough, but the reason behind that becomes clear in the second and third books. There are some surprising and interesting plot twists along the way and certainly I read all three books within the space of about a week, which is an indication, for me, that I’m enjoying them – also that I didn’t stop to pick up another book in between them, generally a good sign. I’m not going to say too much about the books, because having read the whole trilogy, I’ll probably forget some of the major plot points and spoil them in my enthusiasm.

The characterisation, at times, was weak, and it was difficult to see the motivation behind them sometimes. But it didn’t jar too much, and I did enjoy the trilogy. There’s a *big controversial thing* which lots of people online have been very upset about, but I saw it coming, and thought that it fit well with the general development of the book, and wouldn’t have any issues with it at all.

A very enjoyable trilogy and a good example of modern YA dystopia.

Four stars
****

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Review: Requiem

20130421-015118.jpgA little while ago now, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Lauren Oliver’s Requiem, the third book in her Delirium trilogy. I read it, but then forgot about it, so I may as well do a quick review of it here.

So basically this is the third time we’ve ventured into Lauren Oliver’s dystopian future Appalachia, where love is a disease, amor deliria nervosa, and all adults have had a procedure to ‘cure’ them of the ability to feel love.

There are a few spoilers, most likely, so don’t read on if you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy.

The Good: Oliver is a great writer. I have thoroughly enjoyed every book of hers I have read, although admittedly this is only number four.
The characters are established, the universe is complex, the tension is high, the threads of most things which were established in the first two books are all coming together in this high-tension finale. The prose style is beautiful, the characters and their reactions are believable and likeable, and the drama is visceral. It’s a good end to the trilogy.
But.

The Bad: I was left feeling a little flat. There were deaths and losses and reunions and love and confusion and all sorts of emotions running high throughout the whole book, but I just wasn’t affected by that much of it. And I’m generally quite easily affected. I have tear ducts very close to the surface.
The other thing which really jarred with me, although this was through the whole trilogy more than just this particular trilogy, was that it felt a little formulaic. It’s very similar, thematically, to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy. So although I enjoyed both trilogies, when I made my way through this one, I just felt like it had been done before.
And one thing which really really bugged me was that in a novella set before Requiem, Raven, a plot point about Raven was revealed which was never followed up. Not a hint, not a flash, not even a tiny shred of a mention of it. Very strange and very irritating.

The Ugly: I did enjoy it. It was a good book and a good trilogy. But it fell a little flat and felt a little like it had been done before. I also felt that it was weaker than its two predecessors.
*** out of *****

Also try: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

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Books – a lot of books

I got a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas.
It’s brilliant. Honestly. I love books. and I think there’s nothing like the look or the feel or the smell of a good quality, beautiful book.
But for distraction and ease of reading, a Kindle or other eReader is hard to beat.

Since I moved here, three weeks ago, I have an hour-long commute to college. I don’t go in every day, but I do head in probably three or four times a week. So on the train journey, when I’m underground and the phone signal dies, a Kindle is incredible. Not only can I read the million and one PDFs I’m supposed to be reading for college (which I do… sometimes), I can lose myself in any one of the multiple books stored on this little tablet, and wander into another world for a few days.
I’ve read more in the last month than for a long time previously, even though I was basically unemployed for the last four months or so and had plenty of time to kill.

In any case, what I thought I’d do today, because I’ve read so much recently, would be to run through the books I’ve read this January and do a little review of each. I could review each one separately and make this a whole bunch of different posts, but to be honest, I’m too lazy to do that.
Rankings out of five in asterix in case you’re too lazy to read everything!

Looking-For-Alaska-John-GreenLooking for Alaska – John Green
I can’t recall whether I read this before or after Christmas, because I borrowed my mother’s kindle for a while in December. I may possibly have read this on her Kindle but either way –
John Green writes very accessible prose. Looking for Alaska is quite the easy read, and you really can get into the head of the main character. Alaska herself is a strange, inaccessible character – personally I really disliked her. Green, though, is immensely quotable, but I find it to be lacking… something. I don’t know what. His characters are easy to get into, but I don’t really connect to them. This book was a nice, easy read, but similar to The Fault in Our Stars, which I have yet to review, it didn’t grab me with the same emotional tug which most books will get me. And by that I mean it didn’t make me cry. And it’s not hard to make me cry. So, I don’t know. Good book, but there’s something… insubstantial about it.
***

hate-list-second-book-cover-httpwww-jenniferbrownya-comhatelist-htm1Hate List – Jennifer Brown
This book was one which I actually put off reading for ages. I had meant to read it right after I read We Need to Talk about Kevin, because it also deals with the aftermath of a school shooting, but I got distracted, and it languished on my hard drive for longer than I intended. When I eventually did get into reading it, it sucked me right in, gripped me the whole way through and took me on the emotional journey of the main character. It wasn’t quite as tough or gritty as I thought it would be, and it’s not half as bleak as Kevin. It’s still well worth the read, though.
****

perksThe Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky
This one was kind of ruined for me, because my sisters went to see the film and their opinions of it meant that I had an idea of how the book went before I actually read it. But either way, it’s still a classic tale of first loves, growing up and accepting who you really are.
My sisters’ complaints about the film were right, though – the ending really jars and is quite unsatisfactory. It might be a classic, but I don’t think it’s one I’ll be reading again.
***

190px-Funny_Story_frontIt’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini
I don’t even remember why I have this book – I think it was Sinéad wanted to read it, so I just hopped on the bandwagon.
I’m glad I did, though. This one was very enjoyable. Another story about growing up, accepting who you are and accepting your limitations, there was something of a ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ vibe about this book, except without the trying to break out. Definitely an interesting one, but suffering from the same difficulty as Looking for Alaska, for me, it didn’t pack any emotional punch, so rather than being sad to finish the book and leave the characters behind, I was rather cold about them. Still worth the read, though.
***

13493463Eve and Adam – Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Applegate’s Animorphs series. They were light, insubstantial books, but easy to read and the overarching theme of an alien invasion was quite interesting – the constant conflict in each book made them fairly entertaining. This book was written by Applegate and her husband, who’s also a writer. I had big problems with this book, though. It was quite… dull. The first 80% of the book builds, and if the proportions were different, I’d probably have quite enjoyed it. But the problem was, all the action happened in the last portion of the book, which for me came to about twenty minutes. It was too fast, it didn’t feel like there was any real conflict and everything was resolved too neatly. The idea was good, but unless you’re really a fan of dystopian books, I’d give this one a miss.
**

tumblr_ltxzyfftjG1qe0xj3o1_1280The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
This trilogy has been massive for the last two years or so – I read it only because Sinéad told me to, but I did enjoy it. This was a re-read, I think my second or third re-read, but it still stands up well.
The Hunger Games trilogy is very, very good. The second and third are weaker than the first, but they’re still well above most of the other books on this list, in my opinion. I’m sure there are billions of reviews out there, and this is only short but – I liked it. I liked that it was real, that it accurately depicted the raging PTSD Katniss had to deal with, and the huge costs of a rebellion/new order. At times it was a little predictable, but other times it came up with twists that left me reeling. And – most importantly – it had me in floods of tears several times.
***** for The Hunger Games,
**** for Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

landofstoriesThe Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell – Chris Colfer
This book was another one that Sinéad read before me. But I decided I’d give it a go, and put it on my Kindle to read on my way to college last week.
My main complaint about this book is that it’s very obviously a children’s book. But then, it was written as a children’s book, so that’s not really a complaint. It was predictable and a little dull in places, which I don’t think was just the fact that it was a children’s book. The idea, though, of visiting fairytale characters ten years after all their tales were finished was incredibly interesting. A good idea, but not pulled off as well as it could have been.
And do you know what really annoyed me about this book? The fact that Conner’s name was spelled with an e. That’s just weird, okay? Nobody spells Connor with an E! It’s one n, or two ns, whatever, but it’s always an O at the end!
**

CursedCursed – Jennifer Armentrout
This was a random book I saw in Easons last year and decided that I liked the look of it. I only got around to reading it this week, and I was absolutely right to judge it by its cover – it was interesting, dark, slightly twisted and mysterious the whole way through. The murkiness of the book was intriguing, and I actually didn’t manage to figure out what I should have done before the ending. Very enjoyable and engaging, but no tragedies here, so no tears streaming down my face. Would recommend it, though.
****

tumblr_leccxeKTvM1qav9ywo1_500Uglies, Pretties, Specials – Scott Westerfeld
This is a dystopian trilogy which I read when I was younger – not long after Leixlip Library opened, so I’d hazard a guess that I was about fifteen. There’s actually a fourth book, Extras, that I have yet to read, but it’s next on my list. It’s told from a different perspective, though, so it’s not a quadrilogy. In fact, the website refers to it as a trilogy plus one. I’m only talking about the trilogy though.
This is a really good dystopian trilogy. It reminds me very strongly of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium books. Or, actually, Delirium reminded me very strongly of this trilogy, since I read this first. They have very similar themes – an operation which fixes people turns out to be more sinister than it seems and civilization is found to exist outside of the strictly regulated cities the main characters grew up in – there’s even love triangles which are very similar – Alex and David match up closely to each other.
Having re-read this trilogy some seven years after its first outing with me, it hasn’t lost any of its appeal. I still thoroughly enjoyed romping through Uglyville, New Pretty Town and the Rusty Ruins with Tally Youngblood. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction.
*****

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